Author Biography

Idrees Kanth has a PhD in Modern South Asian History from Leiden University, The Netherlands, where he was part of the Asian Modernities and Traditions research profile. He was previously educated at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in India where he studied Modern History. Idrees Kanth has also been associated with the International Institute of Social History (IISH) Amsterdam and the academic journal Politics, Religion & Ideology (PRI). His research interests are in modern Kashmir history, Islam, and the history of cricket in the Indian subcontinent and in the West Indies


The present article is focused on the relationship between a sacred object: the moi-e-muqaddas (the Prophet’s hair), housed in the Hazratbal shrine in Kashmir, and the Kashmiri Muslim community. The relic, which was stolen from the shrine on 27 December 1963, lead to a massive protest in the Kashmir valley and in other parts of the subcontinent, as people demanded its immediate recovery. Such thefts, which have been reported from across the world and across centuries, point to the extreme value of the relics, and the additional value they generate when they are stolen. Similarly, the Hazratbal relic theft became a vehicle for reifying certain Kashmiri Muslim social and political sentiments. The incident also catapulted the issue of Kashmir’s political accession, which emerged in 1947 at the time of the partition of the subcontinent, to the forefront, alarming the Indian government. The Hazratbal relic episode is also reflective of the role of religious ideas and symbols in political action in South Asia.


The author would like to thank Shrimoyee Nandni Ghosh for suggestions and comments on the article.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.